Mahendra Singh Dhoni's abrupt retirement from Test cricket ends an interesting era for a remarkably original player, be it with the bat or the keeping gloves. His tenure as Test captain also stood out because few wicketkeepers have been successful international captains.
However, the pressure on Dhoni has only mounted with every overseas Test series defeat, starting with the whitewash in England in the summer of 2011. The focus has particularly been on his defensive tactics at crucial moments that only made things more difficult in tough conditions away from home.
The Melbourne Test ending in a draw meant another overseas series conceded - he had lost five in a row as captain away from home before this Australia tour and that included 13 defeats out of 18 Tests he led in. The latest series defeat can't be entirely blamed on Dhoni because he didn't play in the first Test in Adelaide.
So, the blame for India's inability to convert solid play into clear advantage due to inconsistency must be shared with his deputy, Virat Kohli, who now takes charge as India's new Test skipper. This succession on the go will bring in a new aggressive approach that Kohli pushed for in Adelaide, something the team director, Ravi Shastri, too swears by. The young side might just respond to that, allowing Kohli to assert his individuality and give India's Test team a new direction.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has pointed to the strain of playing in all three formats for Dhoni's retirement. Still, the timing of the announcement, in the middle of a series away from home, is strange.
Dhoni has been under pressure ever since the IPL spot-fixing scandal erupted in 2013 and the Chennai Super Kings skipper began facing questions about conflict of interest. His statement to the Justice Mukul Mudgal committee, which probed the IPL scandal, that BCCI chief N Srinivasan's son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan - who was arrested on allegations of illegal betting - was only a cricket enthusiast came under fire.
The Supreme Court, while hearing that case, was eventually told that Meiyappan was an official, not just a cricket enthusiast. The court has dealt with the officials named in the report, and is expected to pronounce its order on January 5, a day before the final Test in Sydney begins.
Dhoni has always stood out from the crowd, never worrying about leaving someone else to bask in the glory. Thus, he may not have found it too comfortable to be thrust into the front, for the wrong reasons. Indian cricket fans will, however, cherish Dhoni's great contributions with the bat and behind the stumps, while they look forward to the fresh approach which Kohli is expected to usher in, in 2015.